Refugees coming to Germany is a well known fact.

But then, are there currently any German refugees leaving Germany and if yes, for what reasons?

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    This question lacks a good definition of what you consider a refugee. Plenty of people leave any country for various reasons. There are many different definitions out there, which is yours? – Raditz_35 Sep 21 '18 at 10:27
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    You mean in 1940? There isn't anything going on in Germany right now that people would be seeking refuge from. Unless this question is meant to be a counter to some outlandish claim that has been made somewhere, there is no valid reason to suspect that refugees are fleeing Germany. A refugee is someone "who are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence and unable to return there owing to serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order." What in Germany would cause this? – John Sep 21 '18 at 18:54
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    I think there was a Stack Exchange question about immigrants from the then Soviet Union returning to Russia. – Andrew Grimm Sep 23 '18 at 6:28

There was the case of Horst Mahler, a former far left activist and lawyer (and member of the terrorist group Red Army Faction) and now far right intellectual.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for holocaust denial and fled to Hungary, seeking asylum for political persecution. It was denied (sources in German).

As @chirlu pointed out in the comments, there are other cases as well, for example a german family seeking asylum in the US who claimed persecution for wanting to homeschool their children. They were initially granted asylum, but later denied when the Obama administration challenged the decision, though they will not be deported.

Others are leaving Germany for religious/political reasons as well, but it's hard to say if they qualify as refugees.

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    There are (well-publicized) other cases of religious groups colliding with German laws against caning children (“The Twelve Tribes”, moved to the Czech Republic) and about compulsory school attendance (several cases, mostly trying to move to the US). – chirlu Sep 21 '18 at 8:39
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    @chirlu Yeah, but do they classify as refugees? Drawing the line between flight and emigration isn't super clear, but seeking asylum is a good start imho. – janh Sep 21 '18 at 8:44
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    @chirlu The funny thing about that homeschooling family is that it would likely have been quite easy for them to obtain the right to move to the US regularly. German citizens usually face comparably low barriers when they want to migrate to other countries. I assume that applying for asylum was mostly a PR move to draw attention to their cause. Do people who leave Germany because they feel persecuted but do so through regular immigration processes count as "refugees"? They might consider themselves as such, but they likely aren't according to the UNHCR definition. – Philipp Sep 21 '18 at 10:56
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    @Philipp I'd say the definition of refugee is mostly dependent on the country you're leaving, not the one you're going to and how you get there. You can very much immigrate legally and be treated like royalty in your destination country and still qualify as a refugee because you'd be persecuted in your home country for political reasons. Citizens of the GDR were fleeing to West Germany where they were welcome and, if the GDR had allowed it, would've been able to immigrate legally. – janh Sep 21 '18 at 11:34
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    @Philipp comparatively low, yes, but a German citizen cannot just pack up and move to the US. There needs to be some basis in US immigration law. How else would they have remained in the US without a grant of asylum? Maybe a parent can qualify for a work visa, but maybe not. Someone who has emigrated to escape persecution is likely not legally classed as a refugee, especially because having a passport from your country of citizenship is generally taken to imply having availed oneself of its protection, which disqualifies one from being classed as a refugee. – phoog Sep 21 '18 at 20:20

There are reports about Jews leaving Germany because they no longer feel safe there.

  • As Germans they would be free to take residence in any other EU state, but they feel equally unsafe in some of them.
  • They can always go to Israel, where they will be officially welcomed and get citizenship. (In fact Israel complained that Germany was "poaching" Jewish emigrants from elsewhere in the world which they need for demographic reasons.)

(Edited:) I would still say that this is still a case of emigration, not a refugee situation. The UN defines refugees as people fleeing from a well-founded fear of persecution, so one does not have to wait for actual persecution to flee. But the Jews leaving Germany today are not fleeing to the nearest safe haven to escape a present danger, they decide to migrate to a place they like better.

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    None of the factors in your last paragraph disqualifies a person from being a refugee. – phoog Sep 21 '18 at 20:11
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    @phoog, as the comments to the question pointed out, a refugee is someone fleeing a serious threat. They feel the situation is serious, but actual statistics disagree -- the few attacks made the news because they were so unusual. It is getting worse in some Eastern states, but we don't see what I'd call refugee movements yet. – o.m. Sep 22 '18 at 4:49
  • Last statement in the article you quoted from a Jewish student living in Germany: “I think it’s just part of the world moving toward dark times,” she said of the rightward drift. “But I do trust Germany more than I trust any other country in the world to deal with it morally, because of that history." – gnasher729 Sep 22 '18 at 12:29
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    @phoog, the 1951 definition talks about a "well-founded" fear. I don't think that hard statistics support that fear yet. Another key thing in my view is that the motivation of a refugee is to get out of where they are, towards any safe place, while a non-refugee emigrant wants to get in in some specific other place. 1933 and the following years were "getting out, to any destination." People were desperate to get any visa. 2018 the feeling is "better living in Jerusalem than Chemnitz." – o.m. Sep 22 '18 at 17:03
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    @AndrewGrimm, the problem with talking about it is that I refuse to accept that German Jews are any less German than German Catholics or German Lutherans. That was the Nazi drivel which I simply reject, yet it leads to complicated sentences. – o.m. Sep 25 '18 at 4:57


There are, and always will be, individuals leaving Germany, or any other country. However, apart from individuals trying to escape their legal troubles, all other individuals leave Germany, in a legal and orderly manner.

The question boils down to what you define as refugee.

The other answers and comments list some instances of people leaving Germany. In some cases the individuals in question were avoiding legal trouble, as in the case of the “The Twelve Tribes” sect.

There was the instance of jews leaving Germany, yet there is little reporting in German media, and while individuals might indeed feel unsafe in their place of residence, I suspect a bit of political propaganda is in the mix as well, with Netanjahu proposing to jews in Europe to leave for Israel. If jewish people feel unsafe in their place of residence, moving to a different city would achieve the same ends, as leaving Germany alltogether.

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    "Escaping legal trouble" is very much within the realm of being a refugee. Most repression in stable states is done through laws. Have a law against homosexuality and Homosexuals will most likely have "legal trouble" and want to "escape" those. The deciding factor (and the distinction between a refugee and a criminal trying to escape justice) is whether you agree that those laws are good and just. – janh Sep 25 '18 at 8:03
  • @janh Whether the affected individual agrees with a law is tricky. Internationally, we have the Human Rights as basic guideline to judge whether laws as just. Any person with legal trouble will object to the laws against them, regardless of whether these laws ban homosexuality, whistle-blowing or mere crimes. So, I guess the deciding factor would be whether the international community agrees whether laws are just. And as it's always the case, there's a spectrum: – Dohn Joe Sep 25 '18 at 8:43
  • Spectrum (from is a refugee to definitely not): * Homosexuals leaving their country, where homosexuality is illegal; * Carles Puigdemont, definitely in trouble with Spanish law, yet it depends on your political view whether to regard him a refugee or not; * Peter Seisenbacher, an Austria ex-Athlete who's is charged with sexual misconduct, currently residing in the Ukraine, and fighting his extradition to Austria, definitely not a refugee from Austria. – Dohn Joe Sep 25 '18 at 8:46
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    I don't think most common criminals argue against the laws they run into trouble with. They'll swear they didn't do it, they'll complain that others aren't prosecuted or that the sentence is too harsh, but I rarely hear "No, I believe manslaughter should be legal and here's why". The international community isn't important imho, and rarely agrees, the status as a refugee is granted by the receiving country. They are free to go beyond what international conventions say. – janh Sep 25 '18 at 8:48
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    But that's not the international community - and Saudi Arabia probably won't take refugees from Kuwait who claim to be persecuted because of their homosexuality. And yes, sexual orientation, drug use, political or religious persuasion etc are different stories, but I don't file those under common crimes ;) Even with white collar crimes, it's rare. People charged with tax evasion rarely argue that taxes are illegal all together (some libertarians do, however I don't know if they are more likely to be charged with tax fraud). – janh Sep 25 '18 at 9:06

In practice, a "German refugee" would be someone who moves from Germany to country X, claims that he or she is a refugee, and country X accepts that claim.

I know that if you come from certain countries to Germany, you won't be accepted as a refugee on principle. For example, if you come from France you won't be accepted as a refugee (French of course have the right to move to Germany anyway, but if they try to get accepted as refugees, that will be rejected).

The article about the "home schooling family" said that in 2008, four Germans (or more like four cases involving Germans, since the home schooling family had seven members) were granted political asylum in the USA. Which means, in 2008 there were at least 4 German refugees according to my definition (refugee = leaving + claiming refugee status + being accepted as refugee).

Now most Germans think that having to send your children to school is normal, and many people elsewhere will agree - but then obviously some refugees have more urgent reasons to leave than others.

  • "Most think X is normal" isn't a good argument against refugee status, I believe. Killing homosexuals in Iran doesn't seem to be an issue for "most Iranians", as is punishing bloggers in Saudi Arabia for the local population. – janh Sep 25 '18 at 12:18
  • That's why Iran wont give you asylum if you flee because you are homosexual, Germany wont give you asylum if you flee to avoid sending your kids to school, and the USA sometimes does. – gnasher729 Sep 25 '18 at 18:24
  • My point was that it's not about what people in the country somebody flees from think is OK. It's, as you point out, about those in the country he asks for refuge. Or maybe I misunderstood your last paragraph? – janh Sep 25 '18 at 18:26

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